Pause. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out, and focus only on that one big breath and nothing else. Feel it move in and out of your lungs. Now repeat that a few times. Pause. This simple act has the power to shift your mood in a matter of seconds. Notice how your mind slowed down… notice how your heart beat slowed down… notice the different in how you feel. How you feel affects everything you do, and you have more control of how you feel than you ever thought.
Trying to explain to someone what yoga is is like trying to explain to someone what a strawberry tastes like or what it feels like to fall in love. You must experience them for yourself to truly understand them. Yoga has been around for 1,000s of years. Today there are hundreds of styles of yoga practiced around the world. Some of the older and more traditional styles are hatha, ashtanga, kundalini, and Iyengar. Some of the newer styles are goat yoga, beer yoga, and dance party yoga, haha. Hey, whatever gets you to your mat! The common in all styles of yoga is that they connect you back to your true self. Different path same destination. Yoga is like dusting off your mirror so you can see yourself more clear!
Yoga is simply the quieting down of the outside world, and a tuning in to the inside world. The inside world meaning the space where your heart and breath reside. Our hearts and breaths do beat and flow on their own automatically, but in yoga practice you learn to control your breathing, and the real practice comes in when you are in challenging yoga poses and you practice to maintain this same controlled breathing. The more breath control you acquire, the more life control also comes along with it.
I grew up a gymnast, and I remember getting so nervous for practices and competitions. It felt impossible to control or turn off. Yoga helps to bring a calmness over you within just a few minutes as you experienced above. It is the perfect "warm-up" to an athlete's practice. I know if I had practiced yoga as a gymnast, I would have felt more centered and calm for practices and competitions. My nerves would not have gotten the best of me, and I would have felt more confident in my body. Yoga brings an awareness to our mind and body and teaches us to be present, which is where our fullest potential lies.
In yoga we bring our awareness to the breath. What happens when we do this is the mind begins to slowly melt…. little by little, thought by thought, breath by breath. We go from the breath breathing us mindlessly to the breath being controlled by us consciously. We move from a ball of nerves to a ball of fire. We move from the past and future to the present moment. Yoga takes practice just like anything else. It is a simple concept but so easy to forget in the heat of the moment. That is why we practice, and the more you practice the more your mental muscle grows. It is a full body, mind, and soul enhancer!
If you've never tried yoga before you must try. If you've tried yoga before but didn't like it try another style or teacher. If you refuse either of these things, please at least meditation, because what you heal in yourself you heal in the world. There is no better medicine than the power of your own healing breath, body, and mind. They are your Whole-y Trinity. Nurture them and they will nurture you and your life right back!
Leaving you with a few quotes:
"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self." -- The Bhagavad Gita
"Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” —Rolf Gates
"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you." —Deepak Chopra
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." —Ghandi
"Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” —Eckhart Tolle
”Be like snow. Wash yourself of yourself.” —Rumi
May you find your true path and walk through this world with ease...
P.S. If you've never practiced yoga before you can grab a copy of my book, Yoga for Gymnasts but not only for gymnasts. There are over 30 poses in the book that you can practice at home. It goes into more details about meditation, breathing, and the styles of yoga. There are tips on creating your own home practice. There is also a chapter for coaches on how to add a short yoga sequence in the beginning of practice to help center their gymnasts. Pick up your copy today for you, your gymnasts, or coaches!